Sunday, 16 December 2012

The Lion King opening sequence

A while back, someone sold a Lion King animator draft on eBay. I didn't buy it, but the seller included a few sample pages. I'm assuming it's genuine but someone with access to the studio archives can probably confirm if it's an accurate example of a 90s feature draft.

The sequence director is Rob Minkoff, one of the film's two directors.

There is more information on this draft than on the "golden age" drafts uploaded by Hans Perk, in that it doesn't just include the animator name but also the layout (for individual shots rather than the whole sequence) and background artists, plus something called "CU LO" (clean-up layout?) Unlike some of the earlier drafts, unfortunately, it doesn't identify which animator was responsible for which characters when they shared a scene. But for the most part we can work it out:

Animation of main characters is by Russ Edmonds (Sarabi and Baby Simba), Tony Fucile (Mufasa), Chris Wahl (Mufasa plus a group shot of the whole family and Rafiki), Ellen Woodbury (Zazu), James Baxter and Ron Husband (Rafiki). For the most part these are supervising animators responsible for their characters. Baby Simba is aimated by Sarabi's supervisor rather than one of the "Young Simba" animators listed in the closing credits. Ron Husband (who started out during the twilight years of the Nine Old Men, animating in Frank Thomas' unit in The Rescuers) is listed as a Pumbaa animator but gets a couple of brief shots of Rafiki here. There are a couple of scenes by a "Haidar" but I have no idea who that is. A Google search for the name plus "Lion King" shows the name has some significance to the lion species in myth and legend - whether this is an indication that this is a false draft, with the identification included as an injoke, or whether it was just a happy coincidence, I have no idea.

edit: This is probably Joe Haidar, credited as an animator on other Disney features of around the same time. IMDb says he was an uncredited "character designer" on The Lion King.

Most of the animation of the incidental animals is by people who also worked on major characters. They are animated by Andreas Deja (rhinos, also Scar), Michael Surrey (meerkats, also Timon, appropriately enough), David Burgess (cheetahs, also hyenas), Anthony DeRosa (gazelles, also Adult Nala), Phil Young (topis, also Mufasa), Dave Stephan (storks and flamingoes, credited with "additional animation"), Bob Bryan (elephants, also Adult Nala), Brad Kuha (elephants and guinea fowl, also Mufasa), Randy Haycock (gazelles and zebras, also Adult Simba), Brian Ferguson (giraffes, also Timon), Joe Ekers (ants and zebras, also Adult Simba), Michael Swofford (crowd scenes, also Zazu) and Gilda Palinginis (crowd scenes, also Adult Nala). It's hard to tell on the draft but Swofford and Palinginis might be animating Zazu and Mufasa respectively.

While one might expect the animators of Adult Simba and Nala, Timon and Pumbaa (who will not appear "as themselves" until half way through the film or later) to appear here, it's strange to see, for example, the supervising Scar animator Andreas Deja animating incidental rhinos. Maybe they wanted one of the masters to handle the first piece of character animation audiences would see in the film?

Layout artists are Ed Ghertner, Allen Tam, Tom Shannon (key layout/workbook) Tim Callahan, Samuel Michlap (layout assistants) plus people named Keller, Tucker, and Christenson.

Many of the same names appear as clean-up layout artists (?), plus Dan St Pierre (layout supervisor) Tanya Wilson, Jennifer Yuan (key layout/workbook), Robert or Doug Walker (layout supervisor, Florida unit or layout assistant) plus people named George III (key assistant layout artist Mac George?) and Toon.

Background artists are Don Moore, Gregory Drolette, Thomas Woodington, Dominick Domingo, Debbie Du Bois, Sunny Apinchapong, Kathy Altieri, David McCamley, and Serge Michaels.


  1. Wow Joh, this is pretty neat. I suspect 'CU Layout' means Close up layout; many of those shots feature foreground and background action.

  2. Yeah, close-up layout sounds more likely. Notice that some scenes only have one or the other.

  3. Thanks much for posting these. I have been really curious about how the Disney drafts changed as they moved toward and into the digital age. This draft supplies an important view into that.